Globally, healthcare workers have been lauded for their dedication in treating COVID-19 patients. These outpouring of gratitude have been heartwarming to see. In some countries, citizens in lockdowns have stood out on their balconies, clapping for healthcare workers’ heroic efforts. As we show gratitude to healthcare workers who continue to keep us safe during this pandemic, we will also like to highlight the work of another group of frontline workers who deserve immense praise: farmers.

Across the world, there have been food shortages and supermarkets imposing restrictions on the number of products customers can buy, with some countries temporarily banning the export of rice, for example, to shore up their stocks.

From the packaged food on the shelf to the policy expert who implements measures to protect food security and what you are putting in your pot most likely started with a farmer. 

And while many services have become redundant during this pandemic, food has remained essential to feed populations, and to sustain economies.

Across Africa, farming is key to survival – it accounts for at least 15% of the region’s GDP, and about two-thirds of the African population is employed within the sector, the vast majority working on small-scale farms that currently produce around 90% of all output. 

Despite the pandemic, these farmers still go to their farms. They continue to weed, sow, and harvest during this period, while many of us stay home. Their toil has meant drivers still have goods to transport, factories have raw materials to process, markets still have food to sell, and we can still eat.

Across the continent, these small-scale farms are often not easy places to be, and the reward is rarely equal to the efforts put in. By and large, there are widespread issues with farmers not being able to access financial assistance to improve their businesses, using rudimentary technologies, including not having access to irrigation technologies as well as inputs, like seeds and fertilizers. They are also facing unpredictable climates, which affects planting and harvesting. These are all issues we at Farmerline as well as our partners across the world are trying to address, but like COVID-19 won’t be stamped out tomorrow, these challenges will take time to be overcome.

Farmerline’s Worlali Senyo, says farmers have proven their work is more critical now than ever.

“While various strategies for social distancing and easing lockdown across many countries are ongoing, farmers have the arduous tasks of ensuring production does not stop. In Ghana, the season has already started and farmers cannot wait, they have forged ahead with the business of producing to feed people and for their incomes. However, if this is not managed well and supported could lead to the next global disaster of massive food insecurity.”

He says farmers “are the most critical force in overcoming this pandemic because you can not win a war on an empty stomach.”

So we at Farmerline say a major Ayekoo to farmers here in Ghana, Africa and across the world for their essential work, especially during this pandemic.